The 'Today' Show's 11 Biggest Scandals: Matt Lauer's Firing, Kanye West's Epic Call-Out and More
By Antoinette Bueno
Though news of Matt Lauer's shocking firing from the Today show last Wednesday over "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace" rocked the nation, it's not the first time the NBC morning show has caused plenty of controversy.
From Lauer's testy interviews with Tom Cruise and Kanye West, to cringe-worthy on-air gaffes, let's take a look back at the show's nine most memorable scandals.
2005: Tom Cruise gets into heated debate with Lauer over antidepressants.
Tom Cruise appeared on the Today show in June of 2005 to promote War of the Worlds, but the interview quickly went south when the topic changed to Cruise's Scientologist beliefs. Lauer questioned Cruise about slamming Brooke Shields for promoting medication to deal with postpartum depression, prompting the actor to infamously call the Today show co-anchor "glib."
“The thing that I’m saying about Brooke is that there’s misinformation, OK?" Cruise said. "And she doesn’t understand the history of psychiatry. She doesn’t understand in the same way that you don’t understand it, Matt.”
"You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do," Cruise also said at one point. "You just communicate about it. If I want to know something, I go and find out. Because I don't talk about things that I don't understand."
Lauer fired back at Cruise's passionate tone.
“I’m not prescribing Ritalin, Tom, and I’m not asking anyone else to do it," he quipped.
“Can I just say before we do this, I like Tom Cruise,” Lauer noted. “We have a good relationship, we have a good friendship. It was just one little moment."
2010: Kanye West gets agitated during 'brutal' Lauer interview.
Kanye West was visibly upset during his intense November 2010 interview with Lauer, when he was questioned about his infamous comments that George Bush "doesn't care about black people" during a Hurricane Katrina telethon, and also confronted with video of his 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Taylor Swift interruption. West took issue not with the questions, but of video of the two awkward moments playing in the background during the interview.
“I didn’t need you guys to show me the tape in order to prompt my emotions or whatever,” West told Lauer, referring to the video of him making the Bush comment. “I don’t need all the jazz … Can we be quiet for a second?”
West became even more frustrated when video of his VMA moment with Swift began playing.
“Yo, how am I supposed to talk if you’re going to run the thing in the middle while I’m talking?” West asked. “Please don’t let that happen again. It’s ridiculous.”
West later tweeted his thoughts on the testy exchange between him and Lauer.
"I went up there to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later I got labeled as a racist," he wrote. "While I was trying to give the interview they started playing the 'MTV' under me with audio!!!!!!! I don't mess with Matt Lauer or the Today show ... and that's a very nice way for me to put it!"
"HE TRIED TO FORCE MY ANSWERS," he continued. "IT WAS VERY BRUTAL AND I CAME THERE WITH ONLY POSITIVE INTENT. I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused. I don't trust anyone but myself!"
2011: The Today show mistakenly captions Amy Winehouse's music video 'You Know I'm Dead' while reporting on her death.
Plenty of viewers pointed out the Today show's unfortunate error in July 2011, when during a segment on Amy Winehouse's death at the age of 27, they accidentally captioned her music video "You Know I'm No Good" with "You Know I'm Dead."
2012: Kathie Lee Gifford asks about Martin Short's wife, not realizing she's dead.
Kathie Lee Gifford made a particularly cringe-worthy on-air gaffe in May 2012, when she asked Short about his relationship with his wife, Nancy, who actually died in 2010 of ovarian cancer.
"You and Nancy have one of the greatest marriages of anybody in show business," Gifford said. "How many years now for you guys now?"
"We … married 36 years," Short replied.
"But you're still in love!" Gifford remarked.
"Madly in love," Short kindly answered. "Madly in love."
Gifford continued, asking, "Why?" to which Short shrugged his shoulders.
"Cute. I'm cute," he said.
Gifford was made aware of her error during a commercial break.
"Martin just told me as he was leaving, he said, 'Kathie, you probably didn't know,' but his beautiful, precious wife, Nancy, did pass away a year and a half ago of ovarian cancer," she said. "I feel so badly."
Gifford later apologized on Twitter.
"I send my sincerest apologies to @MartinShort and his family," she wrote. "He handled situation w/enormous grace and kindness and I'm so grateful."
I send my sincerest apologies to @MartinShort and his family. He handled situation w/enormous grace and kindness and I'm so grateful.
2012: Ann Curry gives awkward goodbye after one year as a co-host at the Today show, Al Roker later appears to take a dig at Lauer.
Curry's firing from Today in June 2012 after only a year as the show's co-host drew plenty of criticism, and her awkward goodbye certainly didn't help rumors that Lauer had plenty to do with her departure. Lauer kissed Curry on the head after she emotionally announced she was leaving the morning show, and her lukewarm reaction -- as opposed to warmly hugging co-anchor Al Roker -- didn't go unnoticed with viewers.
In New York Times reporter Brian Stelter's 2013 book, Top of the Morning, Stelter alleged Curry's dismissal was planned well in advance.
"It wasn't obvious at the time, but Ann Curry was a dead woman walking," Stelter wrote. "She was never really given a chance to co-host the show. She was being undermined the whole time."
"Ann Curry's last few days at Today were gut-wrenching," Stelter also alleged. "I was watching outside from the windows and I could see that Matt Lauer and Ann Curry would never speak to each other except when they had to on camera."
The tense atmosphere continued after Curry's tearful goodbye, when Roker made a strange comment that some viewers took as a direct jab at Lauer.
During an interview with members of the U.S. women’s rowing team, the women shared that tossing a teammate in the water immediately after a race was a tradition, to which Roker replied, “Which is different than our tradition, which is you throw one of us under the bus. But, that’s another story.”
Lauer awkwardly replied with a laugh.
“Mr. Roker!” he commented.
2012: Lauer criticized over joking about Anne Hathaway's 'wardrobe malfunction.'
Lauer was slammed by some viewers for his December 2012 Today interview with Anne Hathaway, when he asked her about paparazzi photos taken under her skirt as she stepped out of her car at the NYC premiere of Les Miserables.
“Seen a lot of you lately,” Lauer joked as he began the interview. “Let’s just get it out of the way. You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What’s the lesson learned from something like that, other than that you keep smiling, which you’ll always do?"
Hathaway quickly stressed that she wasn't a willing participant in the pictures, and brought the conversation back to the film she was promoting.
"Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident," Hathaway responded. "It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment, and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to Les Mis, because that’s what the character [Fantine] is. She is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net, so yeah -- let’s get back to Les Mis.”
2012: Today show confuses Jerrod Johnson for Michael Vick.
NFL star Michael Vick was interviewed by Lauer in July 2012 to promote his book, Finally Free, but when video from a Philadelphia Eagles practice of what was supposed to be Vick played in the background, fans quickly realized that the footage was actually of Jerrod Johnson -- who was with the Eagles for less than a month the year before.
"He lied. He lied to you. He lied to Matt Lauer," Roker told Billy Bush during the show, referring to Lochte's earlier interview with Bush in which he claimed he was robbed at gunpoint. "He lied to his mom. He left his teammates hanging while he skedaddled."
Bush told Roker to "calm down," and noted that Lochte "embellished" facts.
However, Roker refused to back down, as Natalie Morales agreed with him.
"Billy Bush will be leaving the Today show’s 9 a.m. hour, effective today," Today show senior VP Noah Oppenheim wrote in an internal memo to the program's staff. "While he was a new member of the Today team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward."
Bush released a statement to ET after his termination from Today, sharing, "I am deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead."
In a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, Bush slammed Trump for reportedly calling the lewd tape fake, and talked about how he's been coping since his firing.
"This last year has been an odyssey, the likes of which I hope to never face again: anger, anxiety, betrayal, humiliation, many selfish but, I hope, understandable emotions," he wrote. "But these have given way to light, both spiritual and intellectual. It’s been fortifying."
2017: Tamron Hall exits the Today show after Megyn Kelly's daytime show takes over.
Tamron Hall surprisingly announced she was leaving NBC News in February, after her 9 a.m. hour on Today with Roker was canceled to make room for Megyn Kelly.
A source with knowledge of the situation told ET at the time that Hall found out about the fall lineup changes a "short time" before the announcement was made, adding that "most people" at the network were shocked at the news of her departure.
Not surprisingly, fans of Hall were not pleased.
2017: Lauer fired for "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."
Matt Lauer has been terminated from NBC News. On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. pic.twitter.com/1A3UAZpvPb
Though perhaps the biggest scandal of all is Lauer's abrupt firing on Nov. 29 for "inappropriate sexual behavior in the worplace." Lauer's co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie, made the emotional announcement on-air.
In a letter to staff, NBC News chairman Andy Lack noted they had received a "detailed complaint" from a colleague, which led to a "serious review." Lack then immediately fired Lauer, calling his alleged actions a "clear violation of our company's standards."
"While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with a reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident," Lack also wrote.
"There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," the statement read. "To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry."
"As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC," he added. "Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full-time job."
Watch the video below for more on Lauer's shocking firing.